Ravens Roost Overlook / Shutterstock Image

Ravens Roost Overlook / Shutterstock Image

Know Before You Go, Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia



There’s a reason they call The Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive.” To put it simply, it’s beautiful, scenic and peaceful. The whole route is nearly 500 miles and connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. 

In Virginia alone, the Shaka Guide tour takes you on a nice, relaxing road trip from mile 115, near Roanoke, all the way down to mile 1 near Waynesboro. Along the way, we offer amazing views, invigorating hikes, and activities for everyone to enjoy. 

blue ridge parkway tour map

Start Planning!

lake mirroring autumn treesSharp Top Mountain Along Abbott Lake/ Shutterstock Image 

You’re about to go on an epic adventure along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia! Here’s what you need to know before you go. 

  • The tour has two starting points:
    • Mile 0 of the Parkway, near Waynesboro, VA, and the southern edge of Shenandoah National Park 
    • Roanoke, VA by Explore Park. 
  • The tour is available in two directions, south to north and north to south.
  • The tour takes about 6 or more hours to complete.
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, however, roadwork projects may impact your trip. Check the NPS website in advance.
  • The Visitor Centers along the Blue Ridge Parkway have varying hours of operation, please check the NPS website in advance. 
  • There is no entrance fee to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
  • Some facilities, restaurants, and attractions are seasonal, see below under budgeting & hours of operation for more information. 

Getting there (how to enter)

From the north tour starts at Mile 0 of the Parkway, The nearest airports are:

  • Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport 40 minutes (30 miles) 
  • Richmond International Airport 1.75 hours (100 miles) 
  • Dulles and Ronald Reagan airports in the Washington D.C. metro area are about 2.5 hours (140 miles) away.

From the south start near Explore Park, the nearest airport is:

  • Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport 20 minutes (11 miles) away
  • Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport is 2.5 hours (130 miles) away
  • Richmond International Airport over 3 hours (180 miles) away

Budgeting & Hours of Operation

lake with red trees on the sideSherando Lake/ Shutterstock Image

The amount you spend really depends on what you do while on the tour, however below is an overview of some expenses. 


  • It’s free to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
  • Access to Explore Park is $3.
  • Peaks of Otter Lodge's stay ranges from $150 - $260. Check here for Packages and deals.
  • Chimney Rock Day Admission costs $17 for adults and $8 per youth (5-15).
  • Sherando Lake Recreation Area Fees:
    • $8 per vehicle up to 8 passenger capacity for day use
    • $2 per person for vans and buses carrying more than 8 passengers and walk-ins for day use.
    • $25 per single site per night, plus a $7 electric fee (some sites)
    • $40 for the double site per night, plus a $7 electric fee (maximum 12 people)
    • Group campsite: $50 per night per group site 1 - 15 people  (maximum 75 people)
    • Group picnic shelter: $25 (maximum 50 people) (day use fee applies)

Hours of Operation

Please note that many attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway are seasonal. We’ve outlined those below. 

  • Explore Park hours:
    • Tues-Fri 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    • Sat & Sun 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Peaks of Otter Lodge
    • Mon-Wed: Breakfast:
      • Breakfast: 7:30 AM - 10:30 AM
      • Dinner: 4:30 PM - 9:00 PM
    • Thurs-Sun: Breakfast:
      • Breakfast: 7:30 AM - 10:30 AM
      • Lunch: 11:30 AM - 3:30 PM
      • Dinner: 4:30 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Peaks of Otter Visitor Center
    • Thursday - Monday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • James River Visitor Center
    • Visitor Center open Thursday - Sunday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Chimney Rock is open between 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
  • Sherando Lake Recreation Area
    • Open Hours at the main gate 6 AM to 10 PM
    • Quiet Hours in effect 10 PM to 6 AM
    • Swimming and picnic areas are closed at dark.

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Get Packing! 

Here’s our packing list for this tour. It may seem a bit lengthy, but keep in mind that what you bring will depend on the day's activities that you choose. 

  • Phone charger - very important!
  • Phone mount 
  • Sneakers
  • Hiking clothes - pack layers. 
  • Hiking shoes
  • Jacket
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Lawn chairs, for soaking in that perfect view
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Canteen/ refillable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Credit card
  • Swimsuits for Sliding Rock

Best Time to Visit 

nature trail in autumnYankee Horse Ridge/ Shutterstock Image

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia offers different attractions and experiences throughout the year, so the best time to visit depends on your preferences. Here's a breakdown of the seasons:

Spring (April to June)

Spring is a popular time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway as the region comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and blooming trees.

The weather is generally pleasant, with milder temperatures and lower humidity. It's a great time for hiking, enjoying scenic drives, and witnessing the beauty of nature awakening.

Summer (July to September)

Summer brings warmer temperatures, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and picnicking.

The Parkway's higher elevations offer a cooler escape from the heat, and you can enjoy panoramic views of lush green landscapes.

Keep in mind that summer can be a busy season with increased visitation, so popular attractions may be more crowded.

Fall (October to early November)

Fall is a spectacular time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. The foliage transforms into brilliant hues of red, orange, and gold, creating a breathtaking display.

This season draws many visitors seeking scenic drives and hikes to capture the stunning fall colors. It's advisable to plan ahead and check the peak color times, as they vary from year to year.

Winter (December to February)

Winter on the Parkway offers a serene and peaceful experience. While some sections may be closed due to weather conditions, the lower elevations are usually accessible.

You can enjoy scenic vistas, go for short hikes, and experience the beauty of snow-capped mountains. Keep in mind that temperatures can be chilly, and road closures are possible during winter storms.

It's important to note that weather conditions can vary, and it's always a good idea to check the Parkway's official website or local weather forecasts for up-to-date information and road closures, especially during the winter months.

Safety and Additional Information

mountain overview during sunriseBlue Ridge Parkway Sunrise/ Shutterstock Image

Safety Tips 

  • Drive at or under the speed limit
  • Don’t overexert yourself on the trails.
  • Be cautious of wildlife. They can be unpredictable. 

Do we need reservations?

You do not need to make any reservations to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is free for anyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Cell phone wifi? 

Wi-Fi and Cell phone reception is spotty.

Is it dangerous? 

There are some steep sections and sharp turns, but overall it’s not dangerous for drivers. One thing to look out for, however, is the other people using the road. There are motorcyclists, bicyclists, and even walkers on the parkway at any given time. Please keep an eye out for them. 

Leave No Trace

Follow the 'Leave No Trace' principles outdoors: plan well, avoid harming nature, stick to paths, throw away trash responsibly, be kind to animals, and consider other people. Let's all take care of our natural places.

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Blue Ridge Parkway Itinerary.

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